From the world's driest desert in the north to the cold glaciers of the South East, this sliver of a country has geysers, volcanoes, lakes, islands, hot springs, steppes, forests, fjords, canals and beaches to its credit. One of the most prosperous in South America, Chileans refer to their nation as the country of poets. And as you drive across the dunes of Atacama desert, ski the slopes of the Cordillera, watch a majestic Andean condor fly high above, or stand next to the mysterious moai on Easter Island, it isn't hard to see why. To get under Chilean skin read Isabel Allende's 'House of the Spirits', watch 'El Chacotero Sentimental' by Christian Galaz and listen to Victor Jara or local artiste Nicole.
Best time to visit: September to December (spring). The average temperature in Chile is 15.0°C. The highest monthly average temperature is 30°C in January and the lowest monthly average low temperature is 3°C in July.
Chilean cuisine consists of lots of meat, rice and potatoes, fresh fruit, vegetables and seafood. Spanish and Amerindian influences have given Chile several corn-based dishes. German immigrants brought rich pastries and cakes, Italians brought ices, while Arab immigrants brought spices and herbs and the British brought tea.
Copper wear, jewellery or artifacts made of lapis lazuli, emboque, a Chilean game made of wood, Indio picaro (wooden sculptures), Moai souviners, soccer jerseys, home-made chocolates, Andean jewellery, charango (traditional guitar), shoes and clothes.
The best and easiest way to see the highlights is on an escorted tour, where all your travel, accommodation and sightseeing arrangements are well taken care of. A knowledgeable local guide brings history and culture to life as you travel in the comfort of your deluxe coach.
Probably one of the best connection is via Paris on Air France, however the halt for Paris is for a full day….. you may take this as an opportunity to tour Paris city and you will need a Schengen visa as well.
The main access by plane is through the airport that is most frequently used and which has the most international connections, the Comodoro Arturo Merino Benitez Airport in Santiago.
By land, the shared border crossings with its neighboring countries allow you to enter Chile from Peru through Arica; from Bolivia to Arica, Iquique and Antofagasta and from Argentina in more than 50 places, with the busiest ones near La Serena, Santiago and Osorno.
Driving in Chile is a breeze - it is easily the best country in South America for driving and is home to the best highway infrastructure.
Santiago has abundant metered taxis, all black with yellow roofs. For longer rides – from the city center out to the airport, for example – you can sometimes negotiate flat fares. It's generally safe to hail cabs in the street, though hotels and restaurants will happily call you one, too. Most Santiago taxi drivers are honest, courteous and helpful, but a few will take roundabout routes, so try to know where you're going.
Renting a car is pretty straightforward: You must be 25 years old and hold a valid driver's license, credit card and government-issued ID (a passport is always preferred, but a national ID can work as well).
Major international car rental agencies operating in Chile include Avis, Hertz, Budget and Europcar, among others. It's a good idea to carry an International Driving Permit along with your home country license, though it is not required for drivers from the U.S.A., Canada, Germany or Australia.
As in the U.S., Chileans drive on the right side of the road. Be aware that you must obtain a special permission certificate as well as Argentine insurance if you plan on crossing the border into Argentina with your rental car.
Known for comfort and efficiency, buses ply Chile's lengthy Ruta 5 from Arica to Quellon and beyond. Classes of travel vary by company but generally speaking range from clasico/pullman (standard two-seater bus, no bathroom) to executivo (a step up, including bathrooms) to semi-cama (seats boasting extra legroom that recline even farther) to the ultimate in comfort, salon cama (with fewer seats that almost fully recline into a flatbed). Coffee, tea and breakfast are often served on long-distance overnight trips.
Foreigners can most easily purchase tickets at the bus stations themselves or via sales offices in central locations in bigger Chilean cities. Online ticket sales are ubiquitous with larger bus companies in Chile, but foreigners often hit snags due to not having a Chilean tax ID number, or RUT.
For shorter trips to outlying cities, a super-efficient system of micros (minibuses) is usually used from the main bus terminal, leaving every five to 15 minutes throughout the day. Passengers simply pay the driver onboard.
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